First drive: 2016 Jeep Renegade 4×4 Limited in Italy
The crossover segment has become a big deal in recent times, and Jeep had already thrown its hat in the ring with the Compass and Patriot models. Clearly they were left wanting, so Jeep utilised their ties with new parent-company Fiat to create the Renegade. It’s the first Jeep built in Italy, which would explain what we were doing in Sicily for this test drive on the fringes of an active volcano.
We’ve driven the Renegade before, so let’s talk about the basics. The exterior looks funky and handsome at the same time. With options for either a fixed roof, a panoramic glass roof or removable plastic roof panels, clearly there are lots of customisation possibilities, although it will be up to individual dealers to offer such variety.
Inside, there’s a surprising amount of space, with tons of headroom and decent legroom in the back, as well as a good-sized boot for such a small vehicle. There are enough strategically-placed padded surfaces to offset the hard plastic bits, and you can spend hours looking for little tidbits like Jeep logos and heritage graphics all over the car, inside and outside. In fact, the Renegade may be trying a bit too hard to show that it’s a “real” Jeep, with apparently more than 30 of those thumb-sized Jeep-related graphics.
In terms of tech, there is a down-scaled version of Chrysler’s excellent UConnect multimedia touchscreen, while a smaller LCD resides between the gauges. A dial below the optional dual-zone a/c controls is the driving-mode selector for road, mud, sand and all that.
If you pick the all-wheel-drive or Trailhawk models, you do get a real Jeep. We drove Italian-spec Limited and Trailhawk models. The Limited gets a more stylish front bumper with a protruding lip, while the Trailhawk gets a chinless front bumper with a better approach angle for offroading. Euro-spec Trailhawks don’t get the trademark red towhooks in the front due to their pedestrian-collision safety regulations, but GCC ones do get them.
Aside from a diesel version, we drove had an Italian-spec 168 hp 1.4-litre turbo-4 petrol version, mated to a 9-speed automatic. The motor isn’t offered in the GCC, but we wish it was, as its 250 Nm of torque is more flexible than the GCC-spec naturally-aspirated 2.4-litre, and gets along better with the auto gearbox’s overkill of ratios. There’s turbo torque in every gear at low revs, so we casually traversed all sorts of terrain without straining the engine, be it gravel trails, abandoned quarries, shallow rivers or rebuilt mountain roads that were wiped out by a volcanic eruption just a couple of decades ago!
The Renegade is a fairly comfortable car on village roads and highways, with that typical soft-bordering-on-firm suspension tune that’s popular with European cars, and allowing in just enough road and wind noise to not be annoying. It can be thrown around like a car, with minimal body roll and none of that top-heavy feeling of a tall SUV. All the controls are well-weighted and fairly responsive.
Whatever minor offroading we did, on bumpy gravel and mild hills, was managed with ease. We had some good fun on a rally-stage style course in a mining quarry. The Limited’s front bumper has a tendency to scoop up sand, so if you’re serious about hitting the desert, get the Trailhawk.
The Renegade seems like a great option for a downsized offroad-capable crossover. While we’ve yet to try the GCC-spec version, the turbocharged Euro-spec one looks like it could be great fun off the beaten track.
For GCC prices and specs, visit the Jeep Renegade buyer guide.